Arrests Should Be Last Resort In Occupy Protests: Wexler


The chaotic street scene in Oakland where police clashed with Occupy Wall Street demonstrators last week was the image law enforcement had hoped to avoid, says USA Today. As a wounded protester was wheeled away, demonstrators — who have gathered around the U.S. to voice their opposition to the political influence wielded by major corporations — added allegations of police brutality to their list of societal ills. Criminologist Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska said the demonstrations draw comparisons to the sit-ins of the 1960s when aggressive police learned the hard way how not to handle large protests. “The lesson drawn from that era was restraint,” he said. “Otherwise, you risk the backlash of creating an image of a police department out of control.”

The Occupy movement presents difficult challenges for police officials who are seeking to avoid physical confrontation, said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “What police do with any group of demonstrators is try to maintain a relationship with the (group’s) leadership,” he said, adding that communication is critical so that both sides “know the ground rules.” Wexler said there “are no real leaders in this movement. There no real demands. It can be difficult. Police have lived with the images of the Vietnam era, when protests against the war turned to protests against police brutality. [ ] Arrests should almost be a last resort. Sometimes, though, your hand is forced.”

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